HMS Whiting (1812)

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United States
Name: Arrow
Builder: Thomas Kemp
Launched: 7 December 1811 in Baltimore
Captured: 8 May 1812 by HMS Andromache
Royal Navy EnsignUnited Kingdom
Name: HMS Whiting
In service: 2 January 1813
Fate: Grounded on Doom Bar on 15 September 1816
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Pilot schooner
Tons burthen: 225 594 (bm)
Length: 98 ft (30 m) (overall), 75 ft 8 78 in (23.085 m) (keel)
Beam: 23 ft 7 58 in (7.204 m)
Depth of hold: 9 ft 10 in (3.00 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Gaff rig with square topsail on foremast
Complement: 50
Armament: 10 x 12-pounder carronades + 2 x 6-pounder guns

HMS Whiting, built in 1811 by Thomas Kemp as a Baltimore pilot schooner, was launched as Arrow. On 8 May 1812 a British navy vessel seized her under Orders in Council, for trading with the French. The Royal Navy re-fitted her and then took her into service under the name HMS Whiting.[2] In 1816, after four years service, Whiting was sent to patrol the Irish Sea for smugglers. She grounded on the Doom Bar. When the tide rose, she was flooded and deemed impossible to refloat.[3]


Built for speed, Arrow served as a cargo vessel trading between the USA and France.[4] This was risky, as in 1807 Britain had introduced restrictions on American trade with France, with which Britain was at war. The U.S. considered these restrictions illegitimate.[5]

On 8 May 1812, six months after being commissioned, Arrow was on a return voyage from Bordeaux to Baltimore fully laden with goods such as brandy, champagne, silk, nuts and toys, when the 38-gun frigate HMS Andromache, commanded by Captain George Tobin, seized Arrow and her cargo. Barely a month later the instruments allowing the seizure were repealed,[4] two days before the United States Congress had voted a declaration of war on Britain, which President Madison approved on 18 June 1812.[6]

Tobin sent Arrow to Plymouth as a prize, with six of his seamen and two marines on board, and under escort of HMS Armide, commanded by Captain Lucius Handyman. As her original crew arrived in England before the declaration of war, they were released.[4] Arrow was taken to Plymouth Dockyard where between June 1812 and January 1813 she was re-fitted to be used by the Royal Navy.[4]

HMS Whiting[edit]

In full, Whiting's new name was "His Majesty's schooner Whiting", and not "His Majesty's ship".[7] She succeeded the Bermudian-built Ballyhoo schooner, Whiting, which a French privateer had captured outside a US harbour at the start of the American War of 1812. In January 1813 Lieutenant George Hayes RN,[1] took command and on 25 February 1813 she sailed for the Bay of Biscay to join Surveillante, Medusa, Bramble, Iris, Scylla, and Sparrow in the blockade of trade between the U.S. and France.[4]

Whiting was in service with the Royal Navy for almost four years. During that time, while under the command of Hayes, she captured or recaptured several vessels. On 22 March 1813, Whiting shared in the capture of the American schooner Tyger with Medusa, Scylla and Iris. Tyger, of 263 tons (bm), was armed with four guns and had a crew of 25 men. She was sailing from Bordeaux to New York with a cargo of brandy, wine, and silks.[8]

One month later, on 23 April, Whiting was in company with Scylla and Pheasant. After a chase of over 100 miles (90 nmi; 160 km), they captured the American 8-gun brig Fox, which threw two of her guns overboard during the chase. Fox and her 29-man crew was underway from Bordeaux to Philadelphia.[9]

Then on 15 July, Whiting recaptured the ship Friends, in company with Reindeer.[7] Whiting, in company with Helicon, also recaptured the Colin, on 25 October.[10]

By 26 August 1814, Whiting was under the command of Lieutenant John Little. On that day she recaptured the brig Antelope.[11][Note 1]

Whiting was also one of ten British vessels that took part in the Battle of Fort Peter, a successful British attack in January 1815 on an American fort .[13] This battle was one of the skirmishes of the War of 1812 that happened after the US and Britain had signed the Treaty of Ghent, but before the US Senate had ratified it.

Wreck on Doom Bar[edit]

On 18 August 1816, Whiting, under the command of Lieutenant John Jackson, was ordered to leave Plymouth and sail around Land's End to the Irish Sea to counter smuggling in the area. On 15 September 1816, to escape a gale, Jackson took his vessel into harbour at Padstow on the north coast of Cornwall. The wind dropped as they came around Stepper Point, and the ship ran aground on the Doom Bar as the tide was ebbing, stranding her.[3]

According to the court-martial transcripts, an attempt to move Whiting was made at the next high tide, but she was taking on water and it became impossible to save her. Her abandonment happened over the next few days. The court martial board reprimanded Lieutenant Jackson for having attempted to enter the harbour without a pilot and for his failure to lighten her before trying to get her off; as punishment he lost one year's seniority.[14] Five crewmen took advantage of the opportunity to desert; three were recaptured and were given "50 lashes with nine tails".[3][15] Whiting was eventually sold and despite correspondence requesting her move eleven years later, the Navy took no further interest in her.[16]


In May 2010, ProMare and the Nautical Archaeology Society, with the help of Padstow Primary School, mounted a search to find Whiting.[17] They conducted a geophysical survey that recorded a number of suitable targets that divers subsequently investigated. One target is located only 27 yards (25 m) from the calculated position of the wreck but sand completely covers the site, preventing further investigation at this time.[18]

Notes, citations, and references[edit]


  1. ^ A first-class share of the prize money, i.e., that which accrued to Lieutenant Little, was worth £296 12s 0d; for Little, the amount was probably well in excess of four years' salary. A sixth-class share, that which would accrue to an ordinary seaman, was worth £16 1s 6d.[12] For an ordinary seaman, this amount was almost a year's salary.


  1. ^ a b Winfield (2008), p.367.
  2. ^ "Wreck details". Wreck Site EU. Retrieved 26 November 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c "Whiting Wreck". Nautical Archaeology Society. Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Arrow to Whiting". The Search for HMS Whiting. Nautical Archaeology Society. Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 28 (Scholastic Library Publishing, 2006), p. 340
  6. ^ An Act Declaring War Between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Dependencies Thereof and the United States of America and Their Territories text online at, accessed 26 November 2010
  7. ^ a b "No. 16821". The London Gazette. 4 December 1813. p. 2440. 
  8. ^ "No. 16750". The London Gazette. 6 July 1813. p. 1335. 
  9. ^ "No. 16726". The London Gazette. 4 May 1813. pp. 873–874. 
  10. ^ "No. 16862". The London Gazette. 26 February 1814. p. 446. 
  11. ^ "No. 17012". The London Gazette. 16 May 1815. p. 926. 
  12. ^ "No. 17018". The London Gazette. 3 June 1815. p. 1053. 
  13. ^ de Grummond et al, (1962), pp. 316-359.
  14. ^ Hepper (1994), p.154.
  15. ^ 1816 Court Martial papers held at The National Archives under archive reference ADM 1/5455.
  16. ^ Petition in 1827 held in The National Archives, archive reference ADM 1/4985
  17. ^ "The search for HMS Whiting is due to begin". Cornish Guardian. 12 May 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  18. ^ "The Search for HMS Whiting". ProMare. Retrieved 22 May 2011. 


  • Daly, Gavin (2007) "English Smugglers, the Channel, and the Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1814". Journal of British Studies 46 (1), pp. 30–46.
  • de Grummond, Jane Lucas (ed), and George S. Gaines, Richard Terrell, Alexander C. Henderson, Andrew Jackson and Alexander Cochrane. "Platter of Glory", Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Autumn, 1962), pp. 316–359.
  • Hepper, David J. (1994) British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail, 1650-1859. (Rotherfield: Jean Boudriot). ISBN 0-948864-30-3
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1-86176-246-1.